Two Democratic cornerstone pieces of legislation passed the U.S. House last week: The Lilly Ledbetter Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act. And Ledbetter cleared a major hurdle in the Senate, too. A summary of each act:
The Lilly Ledbetter Act changes existing law — and a U.S. Supreme Court decision — holding that cases of discrimination in the workplace have a 180-day statute of limitations in which someone can make a claim. The act is named for a woman who worked for Goodyear for 18 years in Alabama, and learned just before her retirement that she had been paid less than men doing the same job. For that reason, she couldn’t have filed a discrimination complaint within the 180 days required by law, even though the evidence showed she did indeed suffer discrimination in pay. The act changes the rules on the statute of limitations by assigning the 180-day limit to each paycheck. In other words, every time someone gets paid, that person has a new 180 days in which to file a pay-discrimination claim.
The Paycheck Fairness Act —
- requires the EEOC to survey pay data already available and issue regulations within 18 months that require employers to submit any needed pay data identified by the race, sex, and national origin of employees, giving the EEOC easier ways to detect violations of law and toughen enforcement.
- toughens the remedy provisions of the Equal Pay Act (EPA) by allowing plaintiffs to recover compensatory and punitive damages from employers. The EPA now provides only for limited damages and back pay awards, which tend to be less.
- allows an EPA lawsuit to proceed as a class action in conformity with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP). Under present law, it’s difficult to bring EPA suits as class actions because the EPA requires plaintiffs to opt in to a suit. Under the federal rule, class members are automatically considered part of the class until they choose to opt out of the class.
- prohibits employers from punishing employees for sharing salary information with their co-workers.
Here’s how each member of the House voted on the Ledbetter Act and on the Paycheck Fairness Act.
And then a few days later, the Senate voted, 72-23, to limit debate on the Ledbetter Act — major step toward approval. President Obama already has voiced support for the bill.
What do you think of the Acts? Take our poll at the right of this story.